Currently, there are nearly a dozen Ohio train rides to choose from including the Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railway, Byesville Scenic Railway, Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad, Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad, Lorain & West Virginia Railway, Toledo, Lake Erie and Western Railway & Museum, Zanesville & Western Scenic Railroad, and the very popular Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Needless to say, the Buckeye State is a great place to catch a train ride. Historically, Ohio is sometimes forgotten as one of the East's most historically important states, as most associate New York and Pennsylvania with this distinction. Because of this, there are several Ohio train rides available to the general public including everything from dinner trains, open-air rides, operational steam locomotives, and lots of different special trains and events hosted throughout the year.
Before today's mega mergers Ohio once found itself home to numerous eastern and Midwestern railroads looking to either tap its natural resources, reach its important cities/ports, and/or pass on their way to reach larger markets such as Chicago and St. Louis. As such, the state featured nearly 10,000 miles of rails in the 1920s and famous passenger trains like the 20th Century Limited, Broadway Limited, and National Limited/Capitol Limited all served Ohio. Today, the state's tourist railroads look to preserve this history and most offer rides lasting over one hour passing through either state parks or rolling countryside. Partly due to its location, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is the most popular seeing tens of thousands of visitors annually offering all sorts of special trains throughout the year. Finally, if you are interested in Ohio train rides that pertain to specific events, such as "The Polar Express," Halloween, Thomas the Tank Engine excursions, or fall foliage events please visit the main tourist trains section of this website.
Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railway
The Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railway, based in Jefferson, Ohio (located in the northeastern part of the state) operates on a former stretch of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway (later part of the New York Central) between Jefferson and Carson Yard in Plymouth Township. The AC&J; is also a freight line and operates about six miles of track today. The tourist line operates a number of special and seasonal trains throughout the year, including its 0-4-0T steam locomotive on occasion.
Bradford Railroad Museum
Located in the town of Bradford this museum's focus is railroad history in its local area while also preserving an original interlocking tower (BF), which is available for tours on select dates. To learn more please visit their website.
Carillon Park Rail & Steam Society
The Carillon Park Rail & Steam Society, based in Dayton, has a small selection of rolling stock on its premises and also provides scale train rides on select days throughout the year.
Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad
The Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad is an excursion train built for the popular theme park in Cedar Point in the 1960s. Today, it operates several live steam locomotives on a short stretch of track that traverses around the park's grounds.
Conneaut Historical Railroad Museum
This organization began in 1964 as a non-profit to preserve the local railroad history. They are housed within the local Lake Shore & Michigan Southern (New York Central) brick depot built in 1900. They have seasonal hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
The most popular of all Ohio train rides is the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad thanks, in part, to its location near downtown Cleveland. It uses tracks once owned by the Baltimore & Ohio and operates through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The railroad uses no steam locomotives but does operate a fleet of historic Alco diesels. Throughout the year they operate they host special events (such as the popular Day Out With Thomas and holiday festivities such as during Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas).
Dennison Railroad Depot Museum
The Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, based in Dennison, is open most of the year. It house in the restored 1873 Pennsylvania Railroad depot and offers a wide range of static displays and rolling stock along with a restaurant. The organization also provides official Polar Express rides in December.
This tourist attraction is based in West Chester and claims to have the largest indoor display of G-scale model trains anywhere in the world. To learn more please visit their website.
Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is located in Nelsonville, Ohio and operates over a former Chesapeake & Ohio branch to Athens. The HVSR now offers the only place in Ohio were one can enjoy train rides behind a historic steam locomotive. To learn more please visit their website.
Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad
The Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad based in Lebanon, Ohio operates on trackage once owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Trains board from Lebanon for about a 1 1/2-hour trip and the railroad offers numerous seasonal and special trains throughout the year.
Lorain & West Virginia Railway
The Lorain & West Virginia Railway based in Elyria, Ohio operates on trackage originally built by the railroad known by the same name. Currently they have about five miles of track open for service but plan to restore the entire line between Wellington and Elyria operating both freight as well as passenger trains.
Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum
This museum is based in Bellevue and takes part of its name from the railroad which originally served the town, the Mad River & Lake Erie. This later became part of the growing Nickel Plate Road system and is the company primarily highlighted within their collection. They have several artifacts and displays available to see.
Marion Union Station Association
As the name suggests this is the town of Marion's preserved union station, which is surrounded by active main lines. The facility, which includes a preserved Erie Lackawanna caboose, has select times available for tours. To learn more about visiting the location please call them at 740-383-3768.
Northern Ohio Railway Museum
This organization is located in Seville and primarily focuses on a local and national interurban history. It owns two-miles of the former Cleveland, Southwestern & Columbus Railway's right-of-way, a traction system that once served its home area. They have a large collection of preserved streetcar/interurban equipment on hand, a small carbarn to house the cars, and are open from late May through October. To learn more please visit their website.
Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation, Inc.
The NORP is based in Findlay offering quarter-scale train rides to the public along with a small museum, gift shop, and layouts to view.
Ohio Railway Museum
The Ohio Railway Museum, based in Worthington, offers a museum of historic rolling stock and also provides short excursion train rides. The organization, however, operates on only Sunday afternoons.
Orrville Railroad Heritage Society
This non-profit group is located in Orrville and generally aims to preserve Ohio's rich history with railroads. They have a few pieces of rolling stock on hand including GP7 #471 which hosts excursions. To learn more please visit their website.
Toledo, Lake Erie and Western Railway & Museum
The Toledo, Lake Erie and Western Railway & Museum is based in Waterville, Ohio offering a 15-mile round trip journey on trackage once owned by the Nickel Plate Road. Their train is known as the "Bluebird Passenger Train" and normally operates between May and November.
Zanesville & Western Scenic Railroad
The Zanesville & Western Scenic Railroad is based in the small town of Zanesville, operating train rides that feature a 34-mile round trip on trackage formerly owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Warther Carving Museum
The Warther Museum, located in Dover, Ohio, features very likely the most detailed and well-constructed train carvings worldwide. Not only are the carvings superbly well crafted they are also constructed of rare natural materials such as ivory and ebony. Perhaps most amazing about Mr. Warther's steam locomotives, all operate mechanically just like their real-world counterparts! The collection is a must-see and having been there a few times myself I can very much vouch for such a statement, you will certainly not be disappointed by a visit to Dover, Ohio. The Warther Museum is entirely self-funded and family operated so if you have time I would strongly recommend a visit to see these exquisite carvings, they are very much worth the price of admission to see. Also, while in the area you might want to consider driving over to Sugarcreek and Ohio's Amish country to see the Ohio Central, roughly 20 minutes or so to the west.
The Warther Museum currently has all but just a few of Mr. Warther's several dozen train carvings which he completed and while they do not currently possess them they know of their whereabouts (so every piece he did is accounted for). Ernest Warther, believe or not, was a self-taught man who had an education no better than the grade school level. However, his love of trains and interest in carving allowed him to create works of art that are, astonishingly, considered to be priceless by the Smithsonian Institution. Never one who particularly loved diesel locomotives or streamlined steamers, Mooney typically stuck to carving only "traditional" steam locomotives where all of the parts and pistons were able to be seen (however, he did carve one diesel and one streamlined steam locomotive).
Mr. Warther also carved other scenes such as a working steel mill, ornate canes, and a tree carved of folding pliers and made from one solid piece of wood (known simply enough as the Pliers Tree. This unique carving is actually entirely interlocking of 511 pairs of pliers and will fold into itself to form one giant pair of pliers (it's pretty spectacular and worth seeing!). By the 1920s Mooney's artistic talent of carving had become so well known that he was given the title of "Worldï¿½s Master Carver". As good as the man was at carving he turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars for his carvings (as well as commissions for new pieces) claiming that they were only a hobby in which he loved and enjoyed and not meant to be a business. He did, however, do one promotional tour of his carvings when the New York Central Railroad featured some of his pieces on board a special train. Mr. Warther had several quotes he is remembered for, some of which are now quite famous. Here are a few:
"Start right where you are and act as if no one is trying to hinder you."
"Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."
"There is more wasted energy spent getting angry then there is in fixing what broke."
"Everything has its own rhythm or tempo that is in step with nature and if you can find the tempo of the task at hand, the work becomes effortless."
What eventually became a successful business for Mr. Warther was the sale of his very own brand of cutlery, which you can still purchase today in the museum's gift shop (they can be purchased either individually or as an entire set featuring the unique spiral swirls in the blades). Mooney never used manufactured knives to do his carvings as he said they were simply too clumsy and awkward for him. Instead, he developed his own style of carving knife, although he never manufactured it for sale, which still holds true to this day. Generally, these one-of-a-kind carving knives feature very short blades, most just a thumb-size in length, and can be easily interchanged to save time and energy. The world of Ernest and Freida Warther has grown over the years. Today, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation Warther's operate the Warther Museum, knife making shop, button collection, arrowheads, gardens and the gift shop.
While Ernest "Mooney" Warther never made millions from his priceless carvings he lived a very enjoyable life spending plenty of time with friends and family when not in the workshop. While the great carver passed away many years his legacy and carvings live on in the museum located on his original home and property in Dover. The family-run museum and knife business now has 4th generation members of the Warthers operating it and they will gladly take you on a tour of the grounds. Also, while there be sure and see Freida Warther's (Mooney's wife) impressive collection of buttons, arrowheads and flower gardens (which are still maintained!).
To learn more about Ohio train rides and railroad museums, Kalmbach Publishing/Trains Magazine releases their Tourist Trains Guidebook each year, which highlights most such destinations throughout the U.S. and Canada.